tv ABC 7 News at 1100 ABC September 21, 2009 11:00pm-11:35pm EDT
photographers to preserve and to protect the beauty, diversity, and grandeur of the natural world. from capture to display, canon cameras, high-definition video, printers, and projectors help to fuel the passion and the creativity that bring this incredible world into focus. the moment the light is just right. the moment you see it in their eyes. a moment of triumph or of tragedy. the moment a smile breaks or when the rains come. the moment you imagined is passing right now. but the moment you see, when it all comes together, is a moment you've captured forever.
at conservation international, our mission is to conserve and protect the world's most precious natural resources. but equally, it is to champion a cause larger than ourselves. it's high summer here in the brooks range in the heart of the arctic wildlife refuge, and the landscape is teeming with life. i'll be rafting down the kongakut river to the vast and beautiful coastal plain. i'm art wolfe. join me on this episode of "travels to the edge."
500 miles north of anchorage, the mountains of the brooks range stretch west to canada's yukon territory. the north slope and its rivers drain onto the vast coastal plain and into the arctic ocean. the arctic national wildlife refuge lies in the northeast corner of this region. whenever i fly north to the refuge, i make a stop at a remote gwich'in community on the southern edge of the brooks range. in arctic village, i had a great chance to talk to sarah james, a gwich'in indian activist, about caribou, wilderness, and the importance of the arctic plain. how important are the caribou, really, to the gwich'in? oh, we're caribou peoples -- food on our table,
and it's our tools, it's our clothing, and it's our story, it's our song, it's our dance. solely depend on caribou and make us who we are. and when that get disturbed, then we lose our way of life. why is it so important to keep the coastal plain intact? every year for thousands of years, the caribou go to the coastal plain because the food is there and it's a safe place for them. and just like woman, you know, when we have our child, we want it quiet, clean, and private, and that's what it is for the caribou there. and we want to keep it that way. that's our responsibility.
i'm joining river guide bob dietrich and naturalist nicole whittington-evans on this arctic journey. we're heading to the north slope of the brooks range to pick up the kongakut river. from there, we'll float through some of the most remote wilderness in north america. so, where are our best chances, do you think, to see the caribou? while they're moving across the coastal plain, a lot of them are kind of north of these little mountains here. and a lot of them come right on through this passage --
it's sort of a shorter cut. nicole: the richness of this area is incredible. all right! all right! everybody in! ooh! that's fun! off like a herd of turtle. art: this is what i love. when you first get on the river, at the beginning of the day and you just float and every fold, every bend in the river reveals something new. this is exciting. it's a great way of seeing the arctic because we're so quiet as we float down. come around a bend, there could be caribou on the bar. four doll sheep up on the ridge ahead.
and this is just the beginning! unlike a lot of what people do in the lower 48, which is get on rivers for the sport, this is more of a transportation through a wild country. bob: they're so wide open, so you can see wildlife for long distances. these mew gulls nest on these gravel bars and they probably have chicks out there now, so they get pretty aggressive when you get near the chicks. like that one gave us a warning shot -- sometimes they really scream at you and dive bomb you. here it comes, incoming! bob: here he comes. art: there's a lot of fossils. a lot of shells -- fossilized shells within the rock
along the shore. so this was all at one time an ocean bed, wasn't it? bob: yep, you can sort of see all those layers. art: it's incredible. i'm just so anxious to see our first caribou. it's amazing how the large animals can just disappear in what seems to be wide, open country. art: with this low valley here and that low valley there, it looks like a natural funnel for migrating caribou. wow, look at the striation in the ice and the blue color. it's fantastic. right from here i can see blue, blue, blue, and then the mountains right above. and it makes this ice look like 40 feet tall. so it's just the juxtaposition, which is great. let's just pull over and get up on top of the ice and kind of scout where we should be going.
just jumped off the raft to explore this off ice, which is one of the really primary elements of the arctic landscape. it builds up over the winter months as the river freezes, and each subsequent freeze adds another layer until it goes from the bottom all the way to the top. some of this off ice will be as deep as 12 feet, which is pretty extraordinary stuff. as i hike along the rivers that flow out of the brooks range, i can find a lot of evidence of this ancient seabed. many, many rocks hold fossils. chitons and other crustaceans are really obvious in these rocks. and like everything else that i do, i love to photograph various scales -- from the grand landscapes to the wildlife that live in the brooks range, and now i'm going to concentrate on doing macro shots of just these shells, these fossils locked in the rock.
up in the arctic, as with every location i'm traveling these days, climate and the warming of the earth is changing in profound ways, and in the time that i've traveled in the arctic, looking back maybe 25 years, i've seen now entire micro-climates of trees sprout and grow. we're looking at balsam poplars growing in ravines that were once barren. wow, this is a beautiful forest. i would never have predicted this is on the north slope of the brooks range. bob: i know of very few pockets like this up here at all. art: these flowers! these little white flowers are beautiful, the lupine are very, very pretty!
nicole: one of the interesting things about these flowers this far north is that we're not experiencing a lot of bees buzzing around us and pollinating the flowers, and that's because the temperatures are too cold often for bees to actually function. and so the alternative in a climate like this, is that mosquitoes pollinate flowers like this. art: what i like about being in here is when you're on the arctic slope, everything's so open and austere and beautiful, but for the mind and the spirit, it's kind of nice to have a change of pace. this is a wonderful place to be right now. there's an arctic hare that's about 15 or 20 feet away, under some dead branches, so it feels secure. the only thing i see moving right now is the whiskers.
it's just -- and occasionally the ears are moving from the mosquitoes, but otherwise, if it just stays still, you don't see them, and they're quite happy. that's nice. my mission, always, is to show things, i mean, i not only want to get a shot of a lot of caribou, and the big mega-fauna, but it's also the little things. nicole: it's great to be back on the river! art: yeah. we're lucky to be traveling down the kongakut because
it's actually designated all the way to the ocean as a narrow strip of wilderness out into the coastal plain. art: going to stop on the far side of that creek. oh -- oh, my god! we saw these sheep from the raft, and we've beached the raft and walked a couple hundred yards across the sandbar to get closer. and it's just a really nice view of a couple young males and a couple females and a baby. very casual, very relaxed. the dall sheep is the only wild, white sheep in the world. they really are uniquely adapted to this vertical landscape and, in fact, it's why they survive,
because they are chased by wolves frequently and so they don't venture too far from these cliffs above the river. we've just seen a herd of bull caribou, it's our first herd, and they're standing on some ice down here -- beautiful antlers. if we have the ability to get off this river, near the off ice, and come up over the edge and get a good shot, we're going to try that. we don't know whether we'll be successful because off ice and the rapids, it's pretty difficult to land a raft. bob: look at them go. i don't think they've seen us yet!
wow, look at... they're heading towards the river, if we get a crossing, that's going to be fabulous. that would be a great thing to see. this is really nice, isn't it? these are beautiful animals, and look how they spread out so that they all have a good view. they've just turned around and they're running towards us. this is what's so incredible -- look at it, they're literally running at us. look how large their antlers are. and when they stop, they all get the front row seats, that's what's so amazing about these animals. they're so adapted to long distance running -- now look at that! oh, beautiful, beautiful! ah, it's just like flowing water.
that is as beautiful as it gets. wow, what drama! that was so beautiful, to see all the same forms, with the water, that is sheer drama! look at the power of getting out of that water. the muscles. then they came towards us again! it's almost like a platoon of soldiers. i love these caribou. i mean, they give you a lot of opportunity. and they're so uniform. i mean that's, look at that! every antler is so huge. i love their dark eyes, too. the ring around their eyes. yeah, they all look like they've been in fights and lost.
look at the way this sand has filled in the lower portions of these grooves in the ice, and it's just beautiful patterns repeated throughout this entire surface. on a day when the clouds have really shrouded these mountains, and i can't find any caribou, i love to find and get lost into the abstract world. it's interesting to me how nature repeats itself on various levels. right now, the patterns remind me exactly of the graceful curves within the antlers of the caribou, and when i photograph really fine details on the carpet of the tundra, there's also a lichen called caribou lichen that is almost identical to the shape of the antlers itself.
it's almost like an eloquent writing of the caribou onto the land itself. nicole: absolutely, and they are playing out an ancient rhythm that has gone on for thousands and thousands of years. art: caribou migrate a long way. nicole: yeah, it's incredible. they, actually, the porcupine caribou herd travels farther than any other terrestrial mammal. and they travel an average of 2,500 miles a year. so they'll come all the way through these mountains, back into the national wildlife refuge to drop their young. that's what they do. they go to the coastal plain to birth their calves, they share this, uh, birthing ground with millions of migratory birds
who also lay eggs and hatch their young right there on the coastal plain. art: the arctic plain really on a clear day is quite an extraordinary sight, because you look to the south towards the brooks range and you've got this skyline of glacier-clad peaks, and to the north, it's just this white thin line of ice that lies along the ocean edge, and in between, is the arctic plain -- this giant nursery. this is great, it's midnight up here in the arctic, in the land of the midnight sun, and there's a huge herd of caribou moving across the slope and they're just seemingly floating across. it's so sinuous, this line of caribou,
it's a great subject for this camera. it seems at times that every square foot of this tundra has a subject, from the microworld of the lichens and the mosses to the small birds that make their nests within this carpet of the tundra. right in front of me, i have a beautiful nest of lapland longspurs and five little babies so perfectly camouflaged within the complexity of the tundra. i'm moving in really quick and getting a quick shot. this is really great! there's three arctic ground squirrel babies. they're just very blasé to my presence, which is the best time to start to get really nice behavior. one of the best shots is when they all stand up on their back legs and they look around, there's a nice catch light in the eye. there's no wind, it's a very even overcast.
it's perfect conditions. we're at a great spot right now. we've come low enough on the kongakut river that now this entire valley has broadened out. just beyond these last foothills lies the great coastal plain. so these caribou are coming out of all the side channels, migrating right past our camp, up and over these ridges, and out onto the plain. there's got to be at least 500 bull caribou going up the slope -- it's un... it's just fantastic! just great!
nicole: alaska's north slope is a vast area. at this time, 94% of it has already been handed over for oil drilling and other types of industrial development. 94%? 94% of it. wow. if we allow oil drilling and industrial development on the remaining piece, the small piece of the coastal plain, in the arctic national wildlife refuge, we will be losing a tremendous piece of america's heritage. art: i think the brooks range and the arctic plain really exemplifies true wilderness. this is the place i think of when i think of the word "wilderness." with every loss of wilderness area, every time we destroy an old-growth forest, we develop a wild coastline, we lose.
it's important for all of us to know that there are still wild areas out there. i'm art wolfe, join me next time on "travels to the edge." are available on three-episode discs for $17.95 each, plus shipping and handling. an award-winning book of art wolfe's landscapes featured in this series and beyond, "edge of the earth, corner of the sky," is available for $49.95 plus shipping and handling. to order the book or dvds, please call 1-800-440-2651. photo tips, and other destinations in the series, by visiting our web site at --
is provided by... the moment the light is just right. the moment you see it in their eyes. a moment of triumph or of tragedy. the moment a smile breaks or when the rains come. the mont you imagined is passing right now. but the moment you see, when it all comes together, is a moment you've captured forever. dedicated to inspiring photographers to preserve and to protect the beauty, diversity, and grandeur of the natural world. from capture to display, canon cameras,
high-definition video, printers, and projectors help to fuel the passion and the creativity that bring this incredible world into focus. at conservation international, our mission is to conserve and protect the world's most precious natural resources. but equally, it is to champion a cause larger than ourselves.
hi everybody, thanks for tuning in for direct connection. there is a pivotal group of members of congress this term. democrats swept into office alongside president obama. many hail from moderate or conservative districts, and their votes are crucial for passage of health care reform and other issues. one of those freshman democrats is maryland's frank kratovil, who joins us in the studio tonight. sir, thank you for being here. >> happy to be here. >> let's start on health care. everybody sort of assumes there will be a bill. what do you think is going to be in the brill? >> it's hard to tell now. we have had so many different proposals. you will see a moderation of the
original house bill. the baccus brill that came outside, there are big differences. and there are employer mandate differences between the two, so ultimately, i think, my pre dick hundred is you are going to see something through the house, pass the house and the final version will be something more compromised. >> how do you feel about idea that mandated coverage or individuals go buy coverage they are penalized. >> if you look at the president in his address, he said there's 80% that most people agree on in terms of these proposals. 80% might be too high but this is a lot reasonable people agree on. one is the individual mandate. i did 12 town halls across my district as you probably know.
some of those got a little heated. i thought those were necessary, by the way, but during the course of those discussions some even criticized the mandate, the argument that if they get into some illness, hey will pay it out of pocket. well, if they can't, who pays? we do. so the individual mandate i am in favor of. employer mandate is different. there is an individual responsibility to have insurance. on the employer's side, philosophically, i am not sure that it's an employer's responsibility, to as a matter of law, provide that coverage. i think it's a great way to attract employees and keep them. so i am concerned about that perspective. also concerned about what impact will that have economically. and, again, the house version says employer mandate, if you have a payroll, $500,000 or more, you have to provide coverage or pay a penalty.
the baccus version that came out is dramatically different and would only require the employers to recover employees that were receiving from subsidies from the g. >> i guess it may be sort of a sleeper issue, the individual mandate. there hasn't been as much focus on that as the so-called death panels and public option. we request get into than, but into your district do you expect push-back from people? it's not what everybody was talking about in the town hales. >> you are always going to goat push back when you are trying to make change that is personal to everyone. i got push-back on my mandate in my town hall meetings. in those meetings, you tend to hear from people on one far side of the issue and the other. i think most reasonable people
agree that an individual mandate is probably a good thing. >> this issue, performing, really, redone instructing health care in america, seems to have energized maybe a little bit more than the fringes. not everybody, but certainly a lot of people, as you heard firsthand. what's the take-away four that? what were people trying to tell you? >> that's a great point. i think one of the mistakes the democratic party made as a party was implying that everyone that was at those town hall meetings were people that were on the fringe and out of control. now, i can tell you, because, as i said, i did 12 of them. i did 3 teletown halls, where we had 8,000 people on the line, each of those, met with doctors, nurses, hospitals. so i was with a lot of people. and there were some people that were out of control. but that was not the majority, in my view. i think implying that was the majority, was wrong. really, what i f